Discovering Vietnam – First Stop Saigon

Discovering Vietnam – First Stop Saigon

By Jean Wethmar

Why do I love traveling so much? The sounds, smells, tastes, sights and memories linger long after the pics have dulled!

My first impressions of Vietnam! I’ve just landed in Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh; the old generation still refers to her as Saigon mind you. On taxing to the airport building I noticed lots of round air bunker type buildings. These immediately made me think back to what the name ‘Vietnam’ had meant for when I was growing up! War! For twenty years this country was war torn, what would I find?

Beep, beep, beep, beep… This is the sound that will always remind me of Saigon. The GI army of the ‘American War’ has been replaced by a million moped army now! Beep, beep…

Mopeds in Saigon

Mopeds in Saigon

The ride from the airport to our swanky five star hotel, The Park Hyatt, was chocked with traffic and slight drizzle. This after all is their rainy season. There are only two seasons here – wet and hot. It was August so I thought it was between seasons.

“Hello, hello You buy raincoat… hello… you buy raincoat… hello… hello you buy umbrella?”, will stay with me every time I smell the tropical rains of Vietnam. She was driving a moped, up the wrong side of the road, against the traffic, and then decided to mount the curbstone, so that she could get closer to me to hawk her goods.

At the Park Hyatt Hotel the door keeper swung open the door, and smiled with his heart, welcoming me. Good morning Vietnam. I had arrived! The colonial architecture I’d seen briefly, through the misted window, had instilled urgency within to dump my bags in my room, and explore. But, oh gosh, how quickly am I distracted?

In the calmness of the piano lounge as I passed on the way to my room, I heard and saw a different side of Saigon. Elegantly silk dressed Vietnamese ladies with their dates, were being entertained by the gentle notes coming from a baby grand piano. Aah, maybe I’d leave the street exploring for tomorrow. I’ll join in, with this beautifully decorated Colonial lounge and soak up some Colonial charm. I’m a true Colonial romantic after all. Give me crisp white linen, dark wooden furniture, wooden shutters, some blue and white Chinese crockery, and I’m smitten! Oh, and my silver hip flask and my panama hat please. And this place oozes Colonial Charm. Ooh I’ve fallen in love already. And I’ve just landed here!

Park Hyatt Saigon Lounge

Park Hyatt Saigon Lounge

Discover Saigon, Vietnam

Discover Saigon, Vietnam

Colonial Buildings Worth Visiting

The Notre Dame Cathedral – Established by French colonists, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880. All building materials were imported from France. The outside wall of the cathedral was built with bricks from Marseille.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon, Vietnam

Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon, Vietnam

The Post Office – The building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 20th century. It has a Gothic architectural style. It was designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel in harmony with the surrounding area.

Ho Chi Minh City Post Office

Ho Chi Minh City Post Office

Ho Chi Minh City Hall – Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Head office – was built in 1902-1908 in a French colonial style.

Hotel Continental – Was named after the Hotel Continental in Paris, and is located in District 1 – the central business district of the city. The hotel is situated opposite the Saigon Opera House and was built in 1880 by the French. The hotel has undergone a few refurbishments over the years, whilst still maintaining the essence of its original architecture and style. The Ho Chi Minh City Hotel Continental has been also been featured in the Hollywood movie The Quiet American, an adaptation of Graham Green’s novel with the same name. Another movie in which it was featured was Indochine.

Rex Hotel – Built in 1927 for M. Bainier during French colonial rule in Vietnam, the building started out as a two story auto dealership/garage complex called Bainier Auto Hall. From 1959 to 1975, Mr. and Mrs. Ung Thi renovated the building into a 100-room Rex Complex Hotel with three cinemas, a cafeteria, a dance hall, and a library. It was made famous and popular by American troops during the Vietnam War when the conference room hosted a daily press conference, by the MACY, derisively named The Five O’Clock Follies by cynical journalists who found the optimism of leading US military officers to be misguided. The rooftop bar was a well known hangout spot for military officials and war correspondents.

View more of Jean’s Ho Chi Minh City Travel Tips:

 

Learn More About Jean Wethmar and Cape Lux Travels.

Cape Lux Travels

Cape Lux Travels

2 Responses to Discovering Vietnam – First Stop Saigon

  1. Inspired me to plan a trip to Vietnam in 2013. Is there a season that isn’t too hot?

    Penny 10/10/2012 at 8:21 am
  2. Hi Penny, thanks for comments..
    There’s no good or bad time to go, when one place is wet another is sunny. Overall, the best time to go is December through May (though not during Tet.. too busy) or even June when rainfall is minimal and there are warmer but not extreme temperatures.

    Temperature remains same, same in Saigon, rain or shine, while in Hanoi there is a marked cooler season from the chilled winds blowing down from China, from November through March and warmer period during the summer.

    Hope this helped.. regards Jean

    Jean Wethmar 10/16/2012 at 9:33 pm

Leave a Reply

CONNECT WITH US